Local SEO Checklist 2020
To understand the concept of local SEO optimization and the mechanisms of its work, it is best to start with an illustrative case.
Let’s have a little experiment. Suppose you are interested in buying a tracksuit and decide to find the appropriate store on Google. There are many sites selling sportswear in big cities, no doubt. However, what kind of stores will the search engine offer you in the top ten?
The top 5 of your search will most certainly include the largest retailers from the niche you are interested in. In our case, sportswear. Interestingly enough, a small privately-owned sports shop around the corner of your house will overtake the aforementioned monopolists.
Why does this happen?
Indeed, it is simpler than it might seem at first glance. The reason is that search engines pay great attention to geolocation. Therefore, the owner of a neighborhood store turned out to be quite savvy and has done a few simple actions in order to get to the top of your location.
Local SEO is the practice of search engine optimization of a local business for key localized queries, such as “buy sneakers in Los Angeles”. SEO-promotion for local search includes the optimization of the company’s website, as well as the optimization of Google My Business profile.
Why Local SEO Is Important: 2020 Local Promotion
Here are a few statistics that illustrate the importance of local SEO for local businesses.
- 74% of consumers surfing the web in search of some product on their smartphone reach the store on the same day ThinkWithGoogle (May 2016).
- “Local intent” is typical of 46% of all Google searches – Nick Willsdon, Digital Marketer (Twitter October 2018).
- 29% of all Google search results pages contain local pack in search results – ThinkWithGoogle (February to July 2018).
- 500%+ growth in “near me” mobile searches that contain a variant of “can I buy” or “to buy” over the last two years – ThinkWithGoogle (May 2018).
- Google Statistics show that “near me” searches have grown by 150% faster than regular local-based searches over the past years (June 2017).
Based on the above, we can conclude that:
- Websites that have not yet introduced local promotion risk losing about 80% of potential leads from organic search results.
- Competent regional SEO can increase the website’s position in search results.
- Local SEO optimization helps to increase sales.
So, what Is Local SEO?
Local SEO works just like a normal Google search. When a user types a query, the search engine scans its index to get the best result for the query.
Google uses a different set of ranking factors to distribute local search results which makes local SEO unique.
Let’s go through the mandatory stages of search engine optimization, without which local SEO is simply impossible to imagine.
Local SEO Checklist
- Optimize your Google My Business page.
- Make sure you use the correct keywords for your products/services.
- Enter all contact and geographical information on your website.
- Optimize the title and description meta-tags.
- Register your website in local directories, catalogs, and services.
- Introduce blocks with reviews.
- Use geographical markup on schema.org.
- Create backlinks indicating the location in the reference texts.
- Work on high-quality content that matches local-based searches.
- Devote time to PR promotion in local online publications.
- Optimize the mobile version of the website.
Now let’s take a more detailed look at each of the points in our checklist.
Optimize Your Google My Business Page
If you still don’t have a Google My Business account, you need to fix it immediately. It only takes 5 minutes to register a profile and is one of the easiest ways to get noticed by users in local search results.
How does it work?
When setting up a profile, it will be necessary to provide a business address. Next, the search engine sends an email confirmation code to verify the company in Google My Business. After a few days, the company will be included in the list on the map issued by Google when users search for the appropriate service type.
If there is not an overabundance of similar companies registered in Google My Business for your area, you can easily find yourself in the first lines of the search.
If your company has several offices in different parts of the city, we recommend also registering them in Google My Business (by the way, they can be downloaded all at once following the instructions on Google Support.
When registering your Google My Business profile, fill in all the information requested by Google, including the business category, services, products, and hours of operation. The more information you can provide, the more likely you will end up in top results for local search.
Google evaluates profiles based on the amount of information provided about the company. Pay attention to details and be sure everything is filled in appropriately.
Additionally, pay attention to high quality and diverse profile photos. If possible, involve specialists to make a 3D tour of your office. View this as a small investment.
Make Sure to Use Correct Keywords for Your Products or Services
In the case of local optimization, it is important to make sure that the description of products and services on your website matches the search queries of the end user. For example, it makes absolutely no sense to use the keyword “car” on your website an infinite number of times, if the client still searches “vehicle”.
To avoid such mistakes, use local SEO services such as SEMrush or Ahrefs (Serpstat, Yandex Wordstat for CIS countries). They will help you determine the most popular search queries for your business and show how difficult it will be to rank certain keywords (including in local search results).
Using these services, you can track a certain trend for similar queries: for example, the query “New York plumber” is more popular than “plumber in New York”, but, at the same time, “New York plumber” is ranked much worse than “plumber in Queens, New York.” In this situation, like many in life, logic and common sense do not always prevail. Therefore, it is imperative to use a data-driven approach.
You can also use this data to identify a keyword that well describes your product or service and increases chances of success in search results. When you find such a phrase or keywords, it will be far easier to build high-quality content based on it.
Enter all Contact and Geographical Information on Your Website
Firstly, make sure the website’s home page (just like any other page) containing information about your product or service links to your location in five key places:
- In the title meta tag (this is the main element of HTML markup that briefly demonstrates the meaning of the page to users and search engines. The title must be written within the head block in the corresponding <title> </title> tags in the program code. It is important that each page has only one unique title.).
- In the description meta tag (the tag creates a short description of the HTML page. Search engines use it to generate a snippet. It is service information and does not affect the page layout. It is also located in the <head> block of the HTML code).
- In the header (It must contain introductory or navigation information for the document section. The tag is often located at the top of the section).
- In the main text (<body> block defines the document body. It contains all the information in the HTML document – hyperlinks, tables, images, etc.).
- In the footer (<footer> block; in other words, it is the “basement” of the website or page section, and it often contains information about the author and the date of the document – contact and legal data).
We also recommend adding your location to the URL wherever appropriate. For example, if you have a network of Indian spice shops in three different parts of London. In this case, create three separate pages with three separate URLs:
Make sure that the content is not duplicated, as Google does not like repetitions.
Also worth thinking about is how broad your location coverage is. Perhaps, for a business that provides highly specialized services, it makes sense to try a hyperlocal approach and use the name of the city where they are located as a keyword or keyphrase. Those who have much less competition, or who plan to provide services to customers not exclusively from their area can safely refer to the name of the region or state.
Optimize the Title and Description Meta Tags
We have already discussed the title and description meta tags in the previous paragraph, but suggest taking a closer look at them. Despite the fact our recommendations set out below may seem obvious and elementary, it is still recommended to check your website for compliance with them.
- The length of the description meta tag ranges from 50 to 160 characters.
- The length of the title meta tag is about 70 characters, depending on the niche. Google is more flexible on this issue.
- Keep in mind to use keywords in the title and description meta tags, but know when to stop in time to avoid overuse.
You can make sure that the meta tags are filled in correctly on Google Support.
Register Your Website in Local Directories, Catalogs, and Services
Adding your website to local directories, catalogs, and services can significantly increase your position in search results.
Firstly, Google indexes all the elements of catalogs, services, and directories, and if they are trustworthy and have a good reputation, it will help you progress in the ranking of search queries. But even if you do not reach the Top 5, placing your website on such resources will affect the visibility of the company in search results.
Secondly, you can get a backlink that improves overall search performance.
Thirdly, your website will become much more visible to people who access directories and catalogs.
Be very careful and consistent when entering your address and data in online directories and catalogs. Always enter the data in the same sequence, to avoid any confusion. If Google detects conflicting address information, it will not reflect well on the search results.
Contact official city directories, private city guides, thematic portals, and global services like Yelp, Foursquare, and TripAdvisor.
Introduce Blocks with Reviews
Indeed, it is not possible to overemphasize how reviews build the reputation of a company. This applies primarily to Google reviews. Competent and positive reviews increase the visibility of your company against others, and it also doubles the probability that a potential client will come to you . Additionally (and perhaps counterintuitively), “negative” reviews can provide constructive feedback and alert you to a problem so it can be corrected.
You can use Google Place IDs to provide your satisfied customers with a direct link to a page to leave their positive feedback. More useful information can be found on Google My Business Help website.
Not only reviews but also ratings (asterisks in Google next to your company name) can help you improve your position in search results.
Use Geographical Markup on Schema.Org
Schema.org is a collaboration of search engines Bing, Google, Yandex, and Yahoo!
Micro markup at Schema.org helps to provide search engines with all necessary information about your website and structuring it correctly (this can be information about prices, ratings, and reviews from your customers). Adding Schema code to your website will create an extended snippet that attracts the user’s attention in the output.
Let’s see how micro markup at Schema.org works for displaying ratings and pricing information:
Schema has a specific type of code – “geographical micro markup”. This allows search engines and users to learn more about your company’s location, and adding code to your website also has a positive effect on local search results.
More information about Schema.org and the need to use it in local SEO optimization is available on official website.
Create Backlinks Indicating the Location in the Reference Texts
Backlinks are active hyperlinks to your website placed on other resources. They are vital for the visibility of your website in search results because Google sees each such link as a kind of “voice” in your favor. The more of these active hyperlinks, the higher your position in search results.
As you might have guessed, this also plays an important role in local SEO.
To improve performance in local search results, work not only to increase the number of hyperlinks but also to ensure that your location is included in them.
Let us take the example of the sportswear store used at the beginning of this article. The “sportswear store in Hampstead” link is much more efficient for local-based search than just “sportswear store”. Remember this.
It may also be a good idea to place hyperlinks to resources located in your area (region/state/county). This is yet another signal to the search engine that you belong to a certain territory.
Work on High-quality Content that Matches Local-based Searches
If your website is filled with informative articles on topics that are really interesting to users, this has a positive effect on your position in search results.
Good content, under any circumstances, is key to success (or at least half of the success).
Don’t forget to use keywords and key phrases in your texts, but try not to overstep the limits of readability and shock your potential customers with intricate wording. Remember the K.I.S.S. method: Keep It Simple Silly! More words do not necessarily add up to more value.
Write relevant and informative articles for your region, covering topics that are close to users in your neighborhood. This will necessarily have a positive effect on the results of local queries.
High-quality texts can always be offered to other resources, which, in turn, will link to you. This is also a good way to get backlinks.
Going back to the example of the sportswear store (yes, here it is again…because we know you really want a tracksuit!), you can write a detailed article about the best gyms and outdoor sports fields in your area. This can attract healthy lifestyle enthusiasts to your website, who will not only find out where it is best to exercise near home but will also know that your store sells great running shoes and tracksuits.
Devote Time to PR Promotion in Local Online Publications
PR promotion in local online publications is just as important as having quality content.
- Learn to navigate in local news websites, arrange for your business to be mentioned in their articles and notes, providing links to your website.
- Try to win the favor of reputable media, as they always have a large audience of your potential customers.
- Monitor your company’s reputation in the media. Bad PR is not always good for sales (unless you are truly wanting to become “infamous”).
When local publications link to you, Google will consider it a link to a specific area, which will once again work for your benefit.
Optimize the Mobile Version of the Website
According to official statistics, most search queries have recently been performed from mobile devices. In mid-2019, Hubspot made a statement that 61% of users who search for products or services using a smartphone prefer companies that have mobile versions of websites
Google also prefers websites with a mobile version.
Indeed, if you have not optimized your website for mobile devices yet, you should do it immediately. In fact, do it yesterday if possible. Pay attention to the correct display of your website in the mobile version and the download speed.
What Else Can You Do for Local SEO Optimization?
We went through the key points that will most certainly improve your position in the local-based search. In closing, let’s see what else you can do for local SEO.
Use social networks
Social networks have long been an integral part of our lives, so do not forget about your business pages on Facebook and Instagram. Link the website to the pages, use the “like” and “share” feedback buttons; remember to place social network widgets on the website.
Social networks can help increase your website’s reach and visibility.
Spend time creating easy-to-understand and user-friendly call-to-action buttons
CTA is a button on the website (a graphic element) that encourages the user to take a certain action (purchase, donation, order, etc.).
Use a well-thought-out but direct call for these buttons, so that the user does not have to think about what exactly you want to offer or what you had in mind (users do not like to solve your puzzles).
Any SEO, including local, requires an investment of effort and time. When you go through all the key points we have analyzed today and check whether everything is set up accordingly, give it time to see results and changes in your website’s position in local-based search.